Nationals stage epic comeback in 7-3, 10-inning win over Dodgers in NLDS Game 5

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The Nationals looked defeated for most of NLDS Game 5 against the Dodgers, but they staged a late comeback against the Dodgers’ bullpen to pull out a 7-3 victory in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers jumped on Stephen Strasburg early as Max Muncy swatted a two-run home run in the first inning and Kiké Hernández followed up with a solo shot in the second, staking Walker Buehler to a 3-0 lead. Strasburg would settle down from there, but Buehler outmatched him.

Buehler didn’t get into hot water until the fifth inning when Kurt Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and Michael A. Taylor grounded a single to center field, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Buehler, however, wriggled out of the jam by striking out Strasburg and Trea Turner, then getting Adam Eaton to fly out.

The Nationals finally got through against Buehler in the sixth as Anthony Rendon led off with a double and scored on Juan Soto‘s RBI single to right field.

Buehler got into more trouble in the seventh, leading off the inning by hitting Suzuki with a two-seam fastball that ran too far inside. Buehler, however, would strike out Taylor and get Asdrúbal Cabrera to line out. Turner drew a walk to extend the Nationals’ rally and with Buehler at 117 pitches, manager Dave Roberts decided to bring lefty Clayton Kershaw in as a reliever to face Eaton. The decision paid off as Kershaw struck out Eaton on three pitches to escape the seventh inning.

Buehler finished the night allowing the one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts across 6 2/3 innings. Strasburg served up his three runs on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.

Kershaw returned to the mound for the eighth inning in what would be neither his Roberts’ finest hour. Rendon immediately greeted Kershaw with a solo homer to right field to make it 3-2. Soto followed up with a solo homer to right-center to tie the game. Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda, who proceeded to strike out the side.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth for the Nationals. Roberts sent Joe Kelly to the mound in the ninth. He worked a 1-2-3 inning. Daniel Hudson kept the game deadlocked at 3-3 with a scoreless bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

Roberts sent Kelly out for a second inning of work, another decision that would come back to haunt him. Kelly walked Eaton to start the frame, then Anthony Rendon hit a ground-rule double to left field. With first base open, Soto was intentionally walked, but Kendrick followed up by swatting a tie-breaking grand slam to center field, putting the Nationals up 7-3.

Sean Doolittle took the mound in the bottom half of the 10th. He struck out pinch-hitter A.J. Pollock, got Muncy to ground out, and Justin Turner to fly out to shallow center field on a nice diving play from Taylor. The play was reviewed but the call on the field was quickly upheld. The Nationals officially won their first playoff series.

For the first time since 1981, and for the first time since moving to D.C. and shedding the Expos name in 2005, the Nationals are in the NLCS. The Cardinals, who won Game 5 convincingly against the Braves earlier today, will have home field advantage, so the series will begin on Friday in St. Louis. The two sides last matched up in the postseason in the 2012 NLDS, which the Cardinals won in five games.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: